Back in January, David Bowie bade a profound farewell when he released his opus Blackstar two days before his death. Now Iggy Pop — who famously enlisted Bowie for his twin 1977 masterpieces Lust for Life and The Idiot — has returned with the masterful Post Pop Depression, his first album since 2012 and one that echoes Ziggy Stardust’s career coda: throughout, the Stooges frontman wrestles with death and late-life malaise, down to its foreboding title. “When your love of life is an empty beach, don’t cry,” Pop croons with distant resignation on “Chocolate Drops.” “When it’s painful to express the things you feel inside.” And, true to its name, “American Valhalla” unflinchingly faces the abyss of the afterlife.
To balance Post Pop Depression‘s bleak lyrics, Pop assembled a top-notch backing band comprised of Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme and Dean Fertita and Arctic Monkeys’ Matt Helders. As Bowie found a late-career foil on Blackstar in the virtuosic Donny McCaslin Quartet, Pop’s latest recruits help him map new terrain. Homme worked with another classic rock legend, Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, in the supergroup Them Crooked Vultures, and serves as the ringleader of Pop’s fresh ensemble. But where Homme’s tried-and-true sleaze-rock tricks added tension to Jones’ funk-inflected keyboard style, here he seamlessly adapts them to fit Pop’s ominous vocal work. Album standout “Sunday” introduces a textbook Queens of the Stone Age instrumental — crunchy riffs, popping bass, and ghostly backing vocals — but soon cedes the spotlight to Pop, who muses “I’ve got it all, but what’s it for? I’ve got all I need and it is killing me — and you.”
Each of Post Pop Depression‘s nine songs explores the boundaries of Pop and Homme’s musical partnership. With its lurching tempo shifts and ghoulish singing, “German Days” sounds like the music Alice might’ve heard as she tumbled down the rabbit hole to Wonderland. Booming drums elevate “Gardenia” into a blissful stratosphere, while “Valhalla” intricately weaves slide guitars and a plinking xylophone for an instantly memorable result. And as closing cut “Paraguay” barrels toward its conclusion, Pop towers above the addictive groove with a bitterly amusing rant: “You take your f—ing laptop and just shove it into your goddamn foul mouth,” he raves at one point. “Down your gizzard, you f—ing phony, you three-timing piece of turd!” Underscored by high-octane tunes, Post Pop Depression runs the gamut from quiet introspection to brash rebellion — and stands tall as some of Pop’s most essential work in years.